Peruvian Coffee- A Complete Guide

Peruvian Coffee- A Complete Guide

Peruvian coffee has a rich and fascinating history that is intertwined with the country's colonial past and current efforts to become a major player in the global coffee industry. From its humble beginnings as a small-scale crop grown by Spanish colonizers in the 16th century to its current status as South America's second largest coffee producer, Peruvian coffee's history is one of resilience, innovation, and a commitment to quality.

Why is Coffee grown in Peru?

Coffee farm in the Andes

Peru is a South American country located on the Pacific coast, bordered by Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil to the east, and Bolivia and Chile to the south. The country's climate is shaped by the Pacific Ocean's moderate coastal exposures, the country's towering Andes Mountains, and tropical rainforests that stretch from the eastern slopes of the Andes to Peru's eastern border with Brazil.

In the 16th century, during the time of Spanish colonialism in South America and Peru in particular, coffee was first brought to Peru from Ethiopia by way of the Spanish. Ethiopia was the original source of coffee. However, it was not cultivated commercially until the twentieth century. This increase in production was driven by increased European demand and a drop in Southeast Asian coffee production in the 19th century due to a disease known as coffee rust.

As a result, colonialist countries, specifically the Spanish and British, seized millions of acres of land in the nineteenth century to increase coffee production for Europe, citing outstanding debts incurred by Peru as justification, resulting in large colonial-operated coffee farms. 

Large farms were frequently run by wealthy landowners with little to no connection to the land or the people who worked on it. This resulted in a lack of investment in the land and the communities that surrounded it, which had a negative impact on the quality of coffee produced and the people who lived there. 

However, as the twentieth century progressed, the Peruvian coffee industry began to evolve. Many large, colonial-style farms were sold off to small farmers as they became too difficult and expensive to operate, particularly in the face of World War II. This land fragmentation resulted in a large number of small farms owned by countless farmers. While this provided farmers with more freedom, it also resulted in lower production and a lack of resources to invest in the land and communities. 

What is a coffee cooperative?

As a result, coalitions known as democratic cooperatives formed, actively working to pool farmers' crops into large quantities of coffee that could be collectively processed and sold from the coast. These cooperatives have been instrumental in assisting farmers to invest in their land and communities, resulting in increased production and higher coffee quality.

Just as Peru was beginning to boom toward the end of the twentieth century, the same disease that put Peru on the international coffee map, coffee rust, quickly wiped it out, with its own outbreak in 2013. While this was detrimental to its success and economy, it did provide a silver lining by allowing farmers to replant with cultivars that are far better suited to individual farms' individual meso- and microclimates, ranging from disease resistance to mold resistance, higher yields, and more flavor depth. The variety Typica, which was responsible for the outbreak due to its susceptibility to coffee rust, was largely ripped out and replaced, and is now only minimally grown in Peru.

Aside from changes in farming practices, Peru has made significant investments in technology and infrastructure, allowing for greater traceability and transparency in the coffee industry. This has resulted in the development of single-lot and single-farm Peruvian coffee, which is gaining popularity among specialty coffee enthusiasts for its true sense of place, or terroir.

Peruvian coffee has grown in popularity among fair trade enthusiasts in recent years. In the 1990s, the fair-trade movement gained traction in Peru's coffee industry. Small-scale farmers in Peru were struggling to compete with larger coffee producers at the time and fair-trade provided an opportunity for small-scale farmers to sell their coffee at a fair price and gain access to previously inaccessible markets. Many Peruvian farmers are now members of fair-trade cooperatives, which means they are paid fairly for their coffee and meet certain standards for working conditions, environmental protection, and community development. This contributes to ensuring that farmers can earn a living wage and continue to produce high-quality coffee. Furthermore, many of the country's coffee producers are organically certified, which helps to ensure that the coffee is produced in an environmentally friendly manner. 

Is Peruvian coffee any good? Does Peru make good coffee?

Today, Peruvian coffee is among the best in the world, with a distinct flavor profile influenced by the country's diverse geography and climate. Bourbon, Catimor, Catui, Caturra, Mundo Novo, Pacamara, Pache, and Typica are the most common varieties grown in Peru. Each of these varieties has its own distinct characteristics and flavor profile, which are influenced by the region's unique microclimates and growing conditions. The harvest period for Peruvian coffee is typically from June to September but may begin as early as March. 

Where does Peruvian coffee grow?

Peru, like many other South American coffee-growing countries, can be divided into large subregions, namely Northern Peru, Central Peru, and Southern Peru, as seen on many other blogs about Peruvian coffee. We believe that this layout is more confusing than helpful because it does not accurately represent Peru's geography and climate. Instead, we prefer to categorize the regions based on geography, terrain, and climate. The regions are, from west to east, the Coastal Region, the Sierra Region, and the Jungle Region. It is important to note that all departments of Peru produce coffee and fall within these regions. 

Map of Peru's coffee regions and departments
Credit: Mare Terra Coffee,

The Coastal Region

The Coastal Region encompasses Peru's entire coast and is known for its mild and humid climate. The region is defined by a low-altitude, narrow coastal plain delimited to the east by the Andes Mountains and to the west by the Pacific Ocean.  The mild temperatures and high humidity of the coastal region allow the coffee cherries to mature at a slower rate, giving the beans more time to develop their distinct flavor characteristics. Furthermore, the soil in the region is rich in minerals and nutrients, which contribute to the development of the coffee's complex flavor profile. The Coastal Region, which includes the nation's capital, Lima, is made up of 11 departments and one province, but it only accounts for 22% of total coffee production in the country. With 93,501 hectares planted to coffee trees, it is nearly tied with the Jungle region's 93,499 hectares for second most production in the country, after the Sierra Region, which has a whopping 238,000 hectares planted to With 93,501 hectares planted to coffee trees, it is nearly tied with the Jungle region's 93,499 hectares for second most production in the country, after the Sierra Region, which has a whopping 238,000 hectares planted to coffee.

Lima Coast in Peru

The departments of the Coastal Region are as follows: 

  1. Piura
  2. Lambayeque
  3. La Libertad
  4. Ancash
  5. Lima
  6. Callao (province)
  7. Huancavelica
  8. Ica
  9. Arequipa
  10. Moguegua
  11. Tacna

The Coastal Region is known for its well-balanced flavor profile, which includes notes of nuts, chocolate, and caramel.

The Sierra Region

Machu Picchu in the Andes

The Sierra region is located in the country's center and is known for its high altitude and cool temperatures. The Andes Mountains, which run north to south across the country, define the region. This region's coffee is grown at a relatively high altitude, giving it a distinct flavor profile influenced by the region's cool and dry climate. The region's high altitude and cool temperatures slow the maturation process of coffee cherries, allowing them to develop a distinct flavor profile. The coffee is known for its bright acidity, which is a result of the cool temperatures, and its delicate sweetness, which is a result of the high altitude. The Sierra Region includes only five departments but accounts for 56% of total coffee production in the country.

Madre De Dios forest in the Sierra Region

The Sierra Region's main departments are as follows: 

  1. Amazonas
  2. San Martin
  3. Ucayali
  4. Madre de Dios

Coffee from the Sierra Region is known for its bright acidity and delicate sweetness.

The Jungle Region

The jungle region, also known as the Amazon region, is located in eastern Peru and is known for its warm and humid climate. The Amazon rainforest dominates the region, stretching from the eastern slopes of the Andes to Peru's eastern border with Brazil. Coffee production in the jungle region is also distinct in that it is frequently grown under a canopy of trees, which provides natural shade and protection from the sun. This method is not only good for the coffee plants, but it is also beneficial to the environment because it helps to preserve the rainforest.

Overlooking the rain forest on the Andean foothills

The jungle region produces 22% of Peruvian coffee and is divided into eight departments with the primary ones below:

  1. Huánuco
  2. Pasco
  3. Junín- Home to Chanchamayo coffee, highly desired by coffee fanatics like us.
  4. Ayacucho
  5. Cusco
  6. Apurimac
  7. Puno

The coffee from the jungle region is known for its notes of desiccated and dried fruit, which are a result of the region's unique growing conditions.

What is special about Peruvian coffee?

Peruvian coffee is distinct and delicious, with a rich history, unique geography, and a delightful flavor profile. Peruvian coffee is quickly becoming a sought-after specialty coffee around the world, and the sustainable farming methods, fair trade and organic practices, and democratic cooperatives used by many of Peru's farmers help to ensure that the coffee is of the highest quality while also supporting local communities. So, the next time you're looking for a new coffee to try, consider Peruvian coffee. You will not be disappointed!

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About the Author

Justin Kramp is a coffee fantatic and the owner and founder of Final Grind Coffee Co. He loves drinking single-origin specialty-grade coffee from around the world while researching interesting topics in the coffee world to share with his readers like you.

He founded Final Grind Coffee Co. in college in a quest for better coffee in a more convenient way.

To learn more about Justin and Final Grind Coffee Co., click here!